Alabama outlasts North Carolina in 4OT thriller

Grant Foree

November 28, 2022 at 9:11 pm.

The Southeastern Conference has a large number of excellent basketball teams for the 2022-2023 season, evidenced by five SEC teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 25. One of the most significant wins was Alabama’s four-overtime victory over the then-ranked No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels. Lindy’s columnist Grant Foree will analyze league play during this season.

Exactly 365 days after the Alabama Crimson Tide football team narrowly escaped Auburn with a 24-22 win in four overtime periods in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide basketball team did the same thing.

This time, the venue was the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational against the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels.

For North Carolina, the PK85 was a weekend to forget. The Tar Heels found an unexpected battle on Thanksgiving Day in the form of the Portland Pilots. In the first game of the weekend for either team, the Pilots found themselves in the lead with just 4:35 to play, before Carolina pulled away late, winning the game, 89-81.

The semifinal went even worse for the nation’s No. 1 team against Iowa State. North Carolina was in trouble for the second day in a row. Carolina led 57-49 with 5:48 left, but a 21-8 run for the Cyclones over the final five-plus minutes sealed the deal on the upset, forcing the Tar Heels into the third-place game.

For No. 18 Alabama, the tournament would be decided in this game. After freshman star Brandon Miller carried the Tide to a Thanksgiving night win over No. 12 Michigan State, Nate Oats’ squad set its sights on No. 20 UConn, which had just dismantled Oregon. UConn punched Alabama in the mouth early, leading by as much as 15 in the first half.

The Crimson Tide stormed back from that 15-point deficit to tie the game early in the second half before UConn took off and won the game, 82-67. Alabama needed a win over UNC to feel positive about its tournament efforts.

The first half was back-and-forth with neither team getting much separation. The Tide led by as much as seven, but that advantage only lasted for one possession, before UNC’s Will Shaver – who led Oak Mountain (Ala.) High School to the 7A state championship in 2020 – hit a pair of free throws to trim Alabama’s lead at halftime.

The second half was more of the same. Alabama jumped out to a 46-39 lead, but UNC was within one in 1:13 of game-time. Later in the half, the Tar Heels would do the same thing, building a six-point advantage that Alabama would quickly erase. The rest of the half was a fight, ultimately ending in a Jahvon Quinerly miss to force overtime with the score all knotted up at 77.

In each overtime, baskets were almost immediately answered with baskets. Alabama built a four-point lead twice in 2OT, but the Heels wouldn’t go away, forcing the third overtime after tying the game at 89. In 3OT, Carolina built a six-point lead, but left too much time on the clock, as Alabama stormed back to force a fourth overtime with the game still tied, this time at 96.

The fourth overtime took about as long as a Baptist preacher takes to finish up a sermon. With 26 seconds remaining, Alabama’s Charles Bediako made a layup to put the Tide up, 102-101. North Carolina pushed the ball down the floor where Caleb Love tried to sneak a floater over the 7-foot Bediako, who sent the ball back to the floor. It appeared on TV as if the block was clean, but the officials ruled it a goal-tend, giving North Carolina a 103-102 lead with less than 10 seconds remaining.

The officials went to the replay monitor to check the clock, where they realized Bediako’s block might’ve been legal, which prompted another review. After a review and lengthy discussion, the officials ruled the block to be clean, calling it an inadvertent whistle, which gave the ball to Alabama and took the points off the board.

The ensuing inbound pass for Alabama was knocked out of bounds, prompting yet another review, before the officials ruled that it was UNC’s ball. After a timeout, the Tar Heels inbound pass was intercepted by Bediako, who passed to Jaden Bradley, who would be fouled and sent to the free-throw line, where he hit one-of-two shots to seal the game at 103-101.

“That was a fun one,” said Oats. “A lot of credit to our guys. They showed a lot of character.”

In a game where Alabama’s leading scorer, Miller, struggled on offense, it was Ohio transfer Mark Sears leading Alabama’s scoring attack. Sears was incredible, shooting 63 percent from three, leading the Tide with 24 points. Joining his prolific day was Quinerly, scoring 21 in just his fifth game since tearing his ACL in Alabama’s 2021-2022 NCAA Tournament loss to Notre Dame.

Bediako was the real key for Alabama, scoring 14 points with 16 rebounds and three blocked shots, while also defending the highly talented Armando Bacot very effectively.

“He made some tough plays,” Oats said about Bediako. “Charles won it tonight. He was great.”

Alabama improved to No. 11 in this week’s AP Top 25 and return to Tuscaloosa to play South Dakota State on Saturday, Dec. 3. North Carolina dropped to No. 18 in the poll.